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Intense storms are becoming more common as a result of global warming and climate change, causing terrible damage to our waterfronts

Editorial – December’18 / January’19

Global warming is forcing those responsible for urban planning and development to reconsider how and where we build infrastructure that services our coastal environments.

In January this year, we watched in horror as our local waterfront disappeared under the waves as an intense storm, coinciding with king tides and galeforce winds, drove higher-than-average waves ashore. Much higher than average! A storm surge of half a metre on top of the 3.5 m high tide created a 4 m tide – and the waves simply crashed over the seawall, rolled across the road and swamped all the beachfront properties.

That particular storm caused terrible damage to the seafronts along much of Auckland’s eastern beaches, tearing up roads, flooding properties, and destroying wharves and beachside facilities. Unfortunately, storms of that intensity are becoming more common as a result of global warming and climate change.

A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’, released in October, says we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice. The report follows the Paris Agreement adopted by 195 nations in December 2015 that included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

The report finds, however, that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities – which is where our policy-makers and decision-makers need to step up to tackle climate change now.

Guidance already exists: in late 2015, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released the report ‘Preparing New Zealand for rising seas’ and the Ministry for the Environment’s guidance for local government ‘Preparing for coastal change’ was published in late 2017; both are available online. Many local authorities are well underway with planning for sea level rise.

Architects too are turning their attention to how designs for buildings can adapt to changing climatic forces. In September, NZCN writer Iain MacIntyre spoke to Kai-Uwe Bergmann, a partner of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) from Copenhagen and New York. The company has been involved in a number of projects where ‘adaptive architecture’ has been utilised to create ‘economically and environmentally sound’ infrastructure.

“How do we design cities in which we have to start thinking about our relationship to radiation from the sun, or deal with a sea level rise of 3–5 ft when most of the cities in New Zealand are built on the coast?” Mr Bergmann asks. You can read Iain’s fascinating article here.

On behalf of the team at NZCN, I wish you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year!

Until next time …

Lynne Richardson, editor


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